Nuclear nightmare

Missiles descending over LA's dark sky

This is a dream about the aftermath of a war, or the current state of our culture—I’m not sure which.


It is three AM and the city is dark and still. Even the sirens are quiet. The hulking ruins that line the deserted street seem to be holding up the sky, which hangs low over the city like a heavy shroud, black and eyeless. But the silence holds expectation, and makes me shiver with dread in the still heat. This city once lived, once thrived, once dreamed when it slept.

It’s almost a relief now when the air is broken by an occasional scream or broken whiskey bottle tossed out of a tenement window.

This sense of foreboding has been with me for a month. I never sleep anymore, except for an hour or two at odd times of the day, because my sleep is filled with tension and terrible tremors. And so I sit and wait, staring into the murky night, sweating, my heart pounding, the quiet and the darkness pressing in on me, waiting…


Several powerful blasts shake the ground. They are distant, but have a force beyond sound; I feel them internally, resonating in my chest. I am gripped by terror, a premonition of physical mutilation, like a horrible slashing of my internal organs.


I am at a church—it is more of a meeting hall than a church really. It is a simple wood frame structure with rough wood benches. There are a few people present. They are sitting, staring straight ahead, their faces like stone, terrifying to look at. They are all sick. Some of them are already dead. In a blind panic I run toward the front of the church, tripping over the benches, knocking them over, scraping my shins, hurting myself, not caring, scrambling over dying bodies. I sit down, exhausted, sweating. It is so quiet. No one moves. No one cries. Just dead silence, utter stillness.

I sit trembling in horror, not believing that this could be happening. I know now that there is no future. This is the end.

I can’t move my legs. I feel like I have been drugged. My mind is slipping away. A heavy blackness washes over me…


Everything is white. I am trudging through deep sand, delirious, struggling in the swirling heat. The sun blazes down from a white sky, baking my skin, sucking out my strength. In my mouth is the taste of salty blood and bitter ashes.

Where did all the people go, or were there ever any people? Was the world always a desert? Is this after the war, or before?

I try to remember the past, but I cannot; the past no longer exits. I am lured on by the shining towers of a white city shimmering in the distance, but I know it is only a mirage. Still, in spite of thirst and suffering, I stagger forward, undeterred by lack of purpose or destination.


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Text and graphics on this page by James L. VanHise licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Attribution: James L. VanHise –

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